NAACP, Rep. Bennie Thompson sue Trump, Giuliani over Capitol riot

The NAACP and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) on Tuesday sued former President Trump, alleging that Trump incited the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 in violation of a Reconstruction Era law commonly referred to as the Ku Klux Klan Act.

The civil complaint, filed in the federal District Court of Washington, D.C., comes after the former president was acquitted over the weekend by the Senate in his second impeachment trial, which was focused on the events of Jan. 6.

The lawsuit also names former New York City mayor and close Trump ally Rudy Giuliani as well as two white extremist groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

“You cannot move forward if you don’t address the illegality of what took place, the treasonous act,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson told The Hill. “If you try to move forward without holding people accountable, you only set yourself up [for] future activity that could possibly be successful in toppling our democracy. For African Americans, we see a long history of people not being held accountable … and if we don’t hold people accountable, there becomes this entitlement that it’s OK to cause harm and violate the law.”

Johnson added that the insurrection of the Capitol was steeped in white supremacy, something that can’t be allowed to fester.

Thompson echoed the sentiment on Tuesday afternoon in an interview with MSNBC.

“What I saw on Jan. 6 is not what people who have fought and died for down through the years,” said Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “We saw the Capitol of the United States of America overrun by riotous individuals who called themselves patriots. … This is not America, this is not our democracy, and we can’t let this kind of riotous activity go on in any form.”

Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump, cited the former president’s recent acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, arguing Trump did not incite acts of violence. 

“President Trump has been acquitted in the Democrats’ latest Impeachment Witch Hunt, and the facts are irrefutable. President Trump did not plan, produce or organize the Jan. 6th rally on the Ellipse,” Miller said in a statement. “President Trump did not incite or conspire to incite any violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6th. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser must answer questions as to why they rejected additional security and National Guard assistance in the run-up to Jan. 6th.”

Miller also said that Giuliani, who has been Trump’s personal lawyer, “is not currently representing President Trump in any legal matters.” It is not clear who will represent Trump in the matter at hand. 

White extremist and hate group activity spiked during the Trump presidency, a concerning trend that the NAACP and other civil rights organizations have consistently warned against.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which does extensive research and tracking of extremist hate groups, saw “historically high hate group numbers” in the first three years of Trump’s presidency.

“Trump, of course, acts as a partial explanation,” the civil rights group recently noted in its annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” report. “He undoubtedly emboldened the far right and, importantly, created heightened expectations.”

The Ku Klux Klan Act, passed in 1871, was the third law in a series of legislation created by Congress to slow the violence against and intimidation of Black Americans at the hands of the white hate group following the Civil War.

While much of the law has since become obsolete, several parts have become codified as a statute, including 42 U.S.C. 1985(1) — the provision listed in the lawsuit.

The statute specifically safeguards against conspiracies meant “to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office.”

Now a private citizen, Trump faces numerous legal challenges in addition to the newly filed suit.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged this in a speech Saturday shortly following Trump’s Senate acquittal in his second impeachment trial.

“We have a criminal justice system in this country,” McConnell said. “We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.”

According to the NAACP, additional lawmakers, including Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), are expected to join the lawsuit in the coming days.

Updated at 4:27 p.m.

Tags Bennie Thompson Bonnie Watson Coleman Capitol breach Donald Trump Hank Johnson House Ku Klux Klan Lawsuit Mitch McConnell Muriel Bowser NAACP Nancy Pelosi riot Rudy Giuliani Southern Poverty Law Center White supremacy

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